College & Workforce Readiness

11 Programs Honored as Tops in Career Technical Education

By Catherine Gewertz — May 24, 2016 3 min read
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Students learning dairy farming in central California, and building parts for jetliners in Tucson, Ariz. Students learning the skills of architecture in Las Vegas, and studying early-childhood development and becoming college-educated preschool teachers in Glendale, Ariz. These snapshots of hands-on learning come from four of the 11 schools that won recognition Tuesday for outstanding career and technical education programs.

Advance CTE, the organization of state directors of career and technical education, gave the programs its “excellence in action” awards Tuesday at its spring meeting here. The awards come at a time of great transition for career and technical education, as it gains increasing support for its power to prepare students not just for higher learning, but for jobs.

Advance CTE’s selection committee chose the 11 programs for their track records of blending demanding academic work with work-based learning and internships created in partnership with business and community organizations. Here is the list of winners, along with the career cluster each one represents. Descriptions of their programs can be found here.

  • Tulare Join Union High School District Farm, Tulare, Calif. (agriculture, food & natural resources)
  • Advanced Technologies Academy, Las Vegas, Nev. (architecture & construction)
  • Vista PEAK Preparatory, Aurora, Colo. (business management & administration)
  • Peoria Unified School District, Glendale, Ariz. (education & training)
  • Hamburg High School, Hamburg, N.Y. (finance)
  • Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Ill. (health science)
  • Des Moines Independent Public School, Des Moines, Iowa (hospitality & tourism)
  • Southwest High School, San Antonio, Texas (information technology)
  • Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, Spring, Texas (law, public safety, corrections & security)
  • Desert View High School, Tucson, Ariz. (manufacturing)
  • Traverse Bay Area intermediate School District, Traverse City, Mich. (science, technology, engineering & mathematics)

Representatives of each program took the stage to share their strategies and results, and together, offered a diverse portrait of CTE programs coast to coast. They serve varying student populations, too. Some programs, such as the Academy of Finance near Buffalo, N.Y., serve primarily middle- or high-income students, while others, such as the computer maintenance technology and IT certification program at Southwest High School in San Antonio, serve mostly students from low-income families.

The Tulare program is one of the oldest CTE programs in the country, getting its start in 1928. Last year, each of its 730 students completed 40 hours per semester of work-based learning outside the classroom, in settings such as dairies, sales offices, milk-processing plants, agricultural engineering firms or veterinary clinics.

Sixteen businesses help design courses for the program, and serve as guest speakers in its classes. With students’ help, the school’s dairy partners with Land O’ Lakes to make butter and cheese. Some courses earn college credit. Every student in the class of 2015 earned a diploma, and 94 percent continued their education, according to district figures. All students kept studying or got jobs.

The Academy of Finance, an eight-year-old career academy, saw all of its students from last year continue their educations or get jobs in the finance industry. An advisory board of 40 business leaders helps shape the curriculum and provides workplace experience, mock interviews, and scholarships for the students. Academy students set up and operate their own credit union, with $15,000 in seed money from a local credit union. Students can earn a range of industry certifications from their work.

The Academy’s partnership with one local college gives every student a $2,000 scholarship to that college upon graduation. Its partnerships with other institutions give students the chance to earn college credit while in high school, or to earn college credits for free by studying on Saturdays. Every student in the class of 2015 went on to college.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.